Goddammit, Michael Wilbon.
So if you haven't heard by now, Landon Donovan, the greatest American soccer player ever, was cut from the United States men's national team roster, and won't be going to Brazil for this summer's World Cup. People freaked, of course, because there was no explanation for Donovan's omission. But on Wednesday, The New York Times published an interview with USMNT manager Jürgen Klinsmann wherein they asked, you know, what the fuck, coach?
Klinsmann, a German who now lives in California, scoffed at the "American coaching custom of deferring to a team's stars." He broke down the flaw of this kind of thinking, pointing out Kobe Bryant's contract situation.
"This always happens in America. Kobe Bryant, for example—why does he get a two-year contract extension for $50 million? Because of what he is going to do in the next two years for the Lakers? Of course not. Of course not. He gets it because of what he has done before. It makes no sense. Why do you pay for what has already happened?"
This is an inarguable point. Kobe Bryant has played in the NBA for half of his life. He's one of the greatest players ever. But he's 35, and his last two seasons have ended with a ruptured achilles and broken kneecap, two injuries that even the youngest of bucks would have trouble with. Even if he was healthy, signing Kobe to an extension for scores of millions of dollars is, of course, extreme, and an award for his past exploits. This brings us to Wilbon.
Yesterday, Wilbon and his colleague Tony Kornheiser were on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption. Because soccer is about to happen, Wilbon and Kornheiser had to talk about it, and since Klinsmann also was talking about basketball, the pair had to talk about him.
Kornheiser gave some context, quoted Klinsmann, then laid it off to his partner: "Wilbon, does Klinsmann have a point that the United States indulges aging stars like Kobe Bryant?"
"You know, for some time, I've known Kobe Bryant. And you, Mr. Klinsmann, are no damn Kobe Bryant. I mean seriously, Mr. Klinsmann now wants to tell all of American sports how to work. Get the hell out. Get out of America. If everything here — you want to coach this team fine. You haven't won anything. You're so gutless you went out and said 'oh, our team can't win, we can't win.' You're supposed to be such a great coach, why are they paying you? They're apparently paying you for something you did not only yesterday, but somewhere else about 4,000 miles away. I repeat: Get the hell out. When did Klinsmann become an expert on American sports?"
Goddammit, Michael Wilbon.
Usually, we would roll our eyes at Wilbon's tired schtick where he and Kornheiser take some kinda of foolish bro-pride in not knowing or caring about non-American or non-mainstream sports. Maybe we'd point out that he used to be an amazing columnist who I grew up reading as a kid in Maryland, one with a reputation as a mentor to young, black writers, but who has now been fully consumed by the ESPN sports-shouting borg. We could talk about how it's kind of concerning that his first reflex was to take a defensive, xenophobic stance. We could talk about how sad it is that Wilbon's only non-ad-hominem point in his rant, an attempt to throw Klinsmann's words back in his face—"They're apparently paying you for something you did not only yesterday, but somewhere else about 4,000 miles away"—is in fact the exact opposite of why they are paying Klinsmann.
But fuck all that. It's Friday. Wilbon's my man. I'm going to Coney Island tonight to ride roller coasters and eat hot dogs with some friends of whom I'm very fond. Let's just chalk this up to trolling and go home.